Man Down

A young WWII pilot stayed with his plane, perhaps saving the lives of many

Residents of Charlotte's Morningside Drive neighborhood were enjoying a quiet Easter Monday afternoon on April 2, 1945, when the calm was shattered by the roaring sound of an airplane low overhead. Neighbors rushed from their homes to see smoke and flames streaming from an Army Air Force A-20 attack bomber as it headed straight for their homes.

A wing fell off as the plane neared the (now gone) Hillcrest Golf Course, and one of the motors hit the corner of a home at 1300 Morningside Drive, tearing a hole in the roof and landing in the front yard. The plane then crashed in a ball of fire in the woods nearby.

Killed instantly in the crash was the plane’s lone occupant, twenty-four-year-old Second Lieutenant Budd Harris Andrews. He had taken off from Morris Field, Charlotte’s World War II Air Force base, needing only three more hours of flight training before he could leave with his pregnant wife, Elaine, for a two-week visit with his parents in York, Pennsylvania. After that, Andrews was scheduled for transfer to Okinawa to fight in the war.

As his squadron was flying back from the east toward Charlotte, the right engine of the bomber started smoking, but it was too late to make it back to Morris Field for an emergency landing. A crackling voice over his radio ordered him to bail out and let the plane crash, but the young aviator refused.

The formation had been following the railroad tracks paralleling Monroe Road, but Andrews's plane veered off to the right and headed for the golf course. Residents who witnessed the crash reported that he stayed with the plane, apparently trying to guide it toward the golf course and away from the dozens of homes in the Morningside neighborhood.

A small marker was placed near the crash site, and a more elaborate monument, with a plaque detailing the heroic event, was erected in April 2003.

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